He played for the Senators, but for at least two seasons, Alex Connell was the king of shutouts. On January 30, 1926, he set an NHL record for the most shutouts in one season. Then two years and one day later, he began his record-setting streak of most consecutive shutouts.
Connell began tending goal for Ottawa in 1924. In his second season, he topped all his fellow goaltenders in shutouts and set a record for the most in a single NHL season. In December 1925, he had six shutouts, and he added four more in January. On January 30, Madison Square Garden oversold their capacity to cram in 18,000 spectators. Tex Rickard claimed the crowd was bigger than the one at their grand opening. The visiting Senators had left behind 20-below-zero weather for more autumnal climes in New York City. The last time they had been in town, on January 11, they beat the Americans 1-0 in overtime. At the end of the month, they matched that score thanks to Connell, who “foiled them” when the Americans bombarded his net in the third period. According to Ed Baker’s synopsis in the Ottawa Citizen, Connell “stopped many shots that would have beaten a less capable net guardian.” Even after becoming the first NHL goalie to have ten shutouts in one season, by the end, he became the first to have fifteen. The next-closest goalie that season only had seven. By the end of the season, the Senators had at least one shutout on all six opposing teams.
The next season, 1926-27, Connell came in second (with 13) to George Hainsworth’s 14 shutouts. However, Connell came out the winner leading his team to the Stanley Cup.
For the 1927-28 season, Connell made history with his shutout streak. Coming in to the streak, Connell already had six shutouts. Then, on January 31, he earned his seventh in front of only 3,500 fans. According to the Ottawa Citizen, “The attack was functioning in faultless fashion and the defence was superb, Boucher and Clancy working together so effectively that Alex Connell got off with one of the easiest nights of his career. Alex had plenty of shots to handle in the latter stages of the game, but nothing compared to what little John Roach had to face in every period.” The Senators defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-0 and increased their winning streak to four games.
Connell proceeded to blank his opponents for the next five games. In the second and sixth games of the streak, the Senators defeated each Montreal team 1-0. Between those, Ottawa tied at 0-0 with the New York Rangers (twice) and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The final game of the streak, the 1-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens, set a new attendance record of 8,500 at the Auditorium on February 18, 1928.
Although the Chicago Blackhawks snapped the streak on February 22, Connell and the Senators added two back-to-back shutouts right afterwards. When they tied the Detroit Cougars 0-0 on February 23, the Ottawa Citizen proclaimed, “Alex Connell master wielder of the white-wash brush, laid it on in large gobs here this evening.” The very next night, they defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0. Connell’s six consecutive shutouts (in 461:29) remains the streak to beat.
When the season ended, Connell and Hal Winkler (of the Boston Bruins) had tied with 15 shutouts, but Hainsworth (of the Montreal Canadiens) was not far behind with 13. The following year, Hainsworth smashed Connell’s record of 15 shutouts in one season by collecting 22. That record still stands, and Connell still remains in second (with Winkler and Tony Esposito).
Connell remained in the NHL for 12 seasons, and unsurprisingly, he spent ten of them in the top ten for shutouts. He finished his career with 81 shutouts, which puts him in sixth place overall (after Hainsworth in third place with 94). Two weeks after being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Connell died 10 May 1958.
- Ed Baker, “Ottawas Triumphant in New York,” Ottawa Citizen, 1 Feb. 1926, p. 11.
- “Senators Outplay Leafs and Gain Second Place,” Ottawa Citizen, 1 Feb. 1928, p. 10.
- “Ottawas in Second Place; Rack Up Fourth Straight Victory,” Ottawa Journal, 1 Feb. 1928, p. 16.
- “Goal by Len Grosvenor Defeats League Leaders,” Ottawa Citizen, 20 Feb. 1928, p. 11.
- “Senators and Cougars in Scoreless Tie,” Ottawa Citizen, 24 Feb. 1928, p. 11.